How much of a threat is Russia for Romania? Răspunde

As a result of the unilateral suspension of the CFE Treaty by Russia on July 14, 2007, the Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adrian Cioroianu, was summoned by Parliament to explain how this decision will affect Romania’s relations with Russia. During his testimony in front of the parliamentary commissions, Adrian Cioroianu stated that Russia does not represent a threat to Romania. This article will analyze the validity of this statement in the light of recent courses of action and policy statements made by Romanian and Russian state officials.

Since the 2004 elections, which brought to power a centre-right coalition led by President Traian Basescu and Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu (now no longer allies but political enemies) Romania’s position towards Russia has been somewhat clarified and can be loosely characterized as being conflictual. The contention points between the two countries, at least in Romania’s view are: energy security – see for example the competition between the Nabucco pipeline project and Russian Blue Stream pipeline and the recent new entry, South Stream; the frozen conflicts in Moldova and Georgia, Black Sea security arrangements and competing visions as to the future of this region, as well as the deployment of US forces in Romania – an important cornerstone for the latter’s security. Traian Basescu has been quite adamant in its opposition towards Russia – accusing it for its past invasions of Romania, of black mailing EU member states with its energy policy, of fuelling the frozen conflicts in the Black Sea region and last but not least of trying to renegotiate mutual agreed treaties. In terms of courses of action Romania has been actively and successfully lobbying the EU for including the issues of the Black Sea on its foreign policy agenda – see for example the Black Sea Synergy Initiative; it has an active diplomacy in the regional intergovernmental organizations – but not always successful and is generating new cooperative initiatives in the Black Sea region – again with moderate success. The reasons for this actions and declarations can be easily deduced – Romania, or at least some Romanian policymakers perceive Russia as a threat to Romania’s interests and to the security of the region – and they have formulated, although not very coherently, a balancing policy aimed at countering Russian power.

Russia is on the rise again and Romania is fast becoming a nuisance for it. Leaving aside the critical statements coming from Romania in the last 3 years – something else has started to raise eyebrows in Kremlin. Because it has become a NATO member in 2004 and an EU member in 2007, Romania has become – from Russia’s perspective – an agent of Western influence in a region in which Russia’s interests used to prevail. This has become more evident recently when US troops have started to be deployed in Romania. Even more worrying from the Russian point of view is the course of Romanian foreign policy concerning the Black Sea and to a certain point the question of energy security – the latter being a sensitive topic for Russia as oil and gas have been the key to its political rise in the international system lately. Russia has been investing a lot of time and money into neutralizing the Nabucco project, a pipeline which if successful would bring the gas from Caucasus to European markets eluding the Russian controlled pipeline routes. Furthermore Russia, from a political perspective, considers any sort of Western influence in this region as dangerous to its interests and therefore unwelcomed.

So in the light of these facts the statement made by Adrian Cioroianu is it still valid? Unfortunately no. Russia is definitely a serious threat to Romania’s interests as well as to Western interests. The fact that it has become a threat should not be considered Romania’s fault: great powers are usually a threat to small powers and this case only confirms this basic fact. Romania in order to defend itself from Russia should formulate a coherent foreign policy aimed at balancing the latter’s power. This should be done in cooperation with NATO, EU (if possible) and more importantly with the United States. Moreover Romanian policy makers must achieve a consensus regarding what kind of policy they should adopt regarding Russia. I would argue that a more assertive policy towards Russia should be adopted – of course within the confines of the means available and according to Romania’s interests.

George VIŞAN

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